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Billy Graham Quote

Billy Graham


"I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it."

— Rev. Billy Graham, Parade, 1981

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Let Go and Let God

We’ve always liked this quote by Bob Marley. What it says to us primarily is that you can’t ever put your full faith in another human being.  Not your husband; not your wife; not your pastor; not your children; not your mother; and not your dad. We’re all fallible human beings. We’re all going to make mistakes that let other people down. Other people are going to let us down. It’s another reason forgiveness is so important.

The only person who will never let you down is Jesus. He is the only one worthy of your full faith. Let go of your expectations that other people won’t let you down. They will.  God won’t. Let go and let God.

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“Hey Mister … Are You Jesus?” by Keith Goss, for The Christian Left

“Hey Mister … Are You Jesus?” by Keith Goss, for The Christian Left

“Are you saved?” “Are you born again?” “Have you accepted Christ as your personal savior?” These are the formulaic ways that fundamentalist and evangelical Christians will ask you if you are “right with God.” But I have to say that I become uncomfortable when someone uses these phrases as a thermometer to gauge my spiritual temperature. Not only does it seem to be very self righteous, but I start to think that what they really mean is that if I haven’t come to God by one of these particular processes, then I might not be a Christian.

Not to mention that usually in today’s America when a conservative Christian approaches you with such phrases, there is much unspoken baggage behind them. Such as: When you are saved or born again, you will want to become a Republican Conservative. You will want to be very patriotic because this is a Christian Nation. You will want to be for the death penalty and against all abortion. You will want to speak out against homosexuality and lesbianism . You will want little or no government intervention in your life. You will loath separation of church and state. And you will go to war if that war is “just,” etc.

But I don’t like it when people put God in a box. I would like them to throw their formulas away.  If I know anything about God I would say that he is very creative and omniscient, and he can bring people to him in many mysterious, joyful and loving ways. It’s like Forrest Gump said when asked if he found Jesus: “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him.”

Alter calls and “witnessing” campaigns are not for me. The early church met at one another’s houses. When the people around them watched them live their daily lives, they said, “See how they love one another?” That’s how we should be. I don’t think there is one perfunctory formula or living arrangement  that we are to pursue to get people to “come to Jesus,” or “get right with God.” As a matter of fact I believe that wherever we are, we “flesh out Jesus.”  We show by our actions that  Christ lives in us. It’s as simple as that. I don’t believe that we are supposed to get a beatific smile on our faces or have our eyes become glazed over.

We don’t have to speak in tongues or have some kind of carnival show. I have known when I am around a Christian. They don’t  have to say anything. They don’t sound like they are on drugs and smile at me like a moron. They don’t keep saying “Praise the Lord!” Praise the Lord! They do praise the Lord by the way they naturally act in love. They are human. They are compassionate. The difference is that they are genuine. You can just tell. I think they have authentic love because they follow Christ and have him and his love living inside of them. They “flesh him out.”

That’s how I would have felt around Martin Luther King. That’s how I would have felt around Gandhi or Mother Teressa. And I’m sure that’s how I would feel if I met Jimmy Carter. There is just something about people who walk in God’s love. You like to be around them. They love you unconditionally and accept you as you are. They don’t judge you.

I think conservative Christians like pat formulas because, in our commercialized world, they have turned Christ into a commodity, something to sell to people. Jesus used various phrases in the Bible to teach people what it’s like to know God or understand his love. He didn’t mean for us to make an idol of them and turn his love into mathematical formula.

There is a story about a business man who was frantically rushing through an airport lobby because he was late for a flight. A little boy was walking along with a puzzle that he had just put together. The businessman smacked into the boy and the pieces of the puzzle, along with the boy, went flying everywhere. The man sat down on the floor beside the boy to see if he was okay. He was going to miss his flight. While he was on the floor with the kid he put the pieces back into their proper places and handed the puzzle fully intact back to the child. The little boy smiled with surprise and said, “Hey Mister. Are you Jesus?”

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"Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander." -- The Holocaust Museum

"Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander." -- The Holocaust Museum

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Let Us Be Broken Together

“Let Us Be Broken Together,” by Keith Goss, for The Christian Left

Doing the right thing can be very lonely. Think of all the prophets throughout history. They had their backs up against the wall. To say that they were between a rock and a hard place would be an understatement. Often their own families were against them. Their own religious and societal institutions were sometimes rejecting them. They were called crazy. Jesus’ own mother persuaded him to come home and get some rest because the townsfolk thought he was going nuts. It’s there in the Bible.

Martin Luther King’s fellow clergymen often said, “Calm down Martin. You’re going to ruin the cause. Don’t speak out against the war (Vietnam). That’s crossing the line. You will lose a lot of people.” The very President he was negotiating with in the White House had his brother Bobby, the Attorney general, wire tap a lot of the hotels and motels Martin stayed in during the struggle. Martin knew it. This stalwart practitioner of nonviolence would be beside himself when sometimes his followers broke out in violence and hatred. Malcolm X severely criticized him. So did Stokely Carmichael. Many said he was not aggressive  enough. Others countered that he was too incendiary. But despite that he was a fragile person like the rest of us, he had a strong faith in God and the nonviolence of Jesus which kept him going.

I often think of what Progressive Christians are up against these days. Right wing pastors foisting  a Gospel of merit and rugged individualism on the public, and that being virtually the only version of Christianity covered by the media. Charismatic health and wealth gospelers incessantly asking for people to send them money, and then claiming that they are so wealthy because they are blessed by God.

Stories like Jerry Falwell  spewing that 911 was punishment from God for homosexuality, feminism and the actions of other groups of human beings that he hated. The Westboro Baptist family protesting at funerals with  hellish signs and abject hatred dripping from their words. Pat Robertson telling us that natural catastrophes  are punishment from God and Sarah Palin wrapping the cross in the flag by promoting her own brand of xenophobia. These distortions seem to be all that is appearing in the press.

It’s enough to make a Christian want to cry out: “This is not what it’s supposed to be all about! Where is the love in this?” Indeed, where is the Christlike love? It is a very lonely time for us. We need to get together in spirit and encourage one another that the love and sacrificial motives of Christianity are still alive. That cheap grace will not reign. That Christ still wants us to reconcile and work for social justice. That sometimes, a lot of times, we can use government and social institutions to help those who are hurting precisely because the love of Christ overcomes the cold bureaucracy  that Conservatives seem to be so paranoid about.

At this time in history, being a progressive Christian, emphasizing  the good things that the left can do, seems like an insurmountable obstacle to overcome. But we have the grace of Jesus. We have one another, and that is why it is so comforting to have a place like The Christian Left to come and visit in spirit once in awhile. To know that there are other people out there who conclude like us that there is something terribly wrong with what is advertised as Christianity today. People who want to be assured that they are not wrong about taking up the cross. About discipleship. About not being self righteous and condemning everyone. About accepting everyone unconditionally with love no matter what.

We are broken people and we fail a lot. And that is why we can let go and put our trust in Christ and let him show his love through us, whether it be through a person to person encounter or government legislation. Whether it be through a charity or a chance encounter with a fellow human being (and yes, animals too). That is a message that many who are hurting want to hear. And that is a message that Progressive Christians can exhibit: Progress is helping others who hurt because we genuinely care and we hurt ourselves. It’s not offering someone a formula for salvation and then advising them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps come what may. We speak by our actions. Let’s all be broken together, love one another and search to help others who are broken and look to the one who was broken for us on the cross. And we don’t need to search far because they will be those who we come across everyday of our lives. As The Apostle Paul said: love conquers all.

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The Protest Protest: Countering Hate With Love, by Rev. Mark Sandlin

The Protest Protest: Countering Hate With Love, by Rev. Mark Sandlin

The group who gathered today near Edenton Street United Methodist Church (UMC), in order to counter the hateful message which Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) brought with them, was a diverse and, mostly, well mannered group whose message of love, grace and respect rang out in their largly quite protest.

The gathering began about 9 a.m. A small group of faithful counter protesters gathered on a corner a few block north of the church. Shortly after that the Raleigh police arrived and started setting up the barricades. Throughout the day, the police could not have been more professional, organized, orderly and helpful. Both groups of protesters showed great respect to the officers, a respect which they wholeheartedly deserved.

Our group arrived about 9:30. As we oriented ourselves to downtown Raleigh in search of the gathering place for the counter protest, we found ourselves squarely in front of Edenton Street UMC. It was hard to overlook the media circus there, but as we stopped to see the church and turned around to return to the gathering, something more interesting caught our eyes.

There on the sidewalk beneath our feet were messages left in chalk from a group who had gathered the night before, “We love you Elizabeth,” “God Speed Elizabeth,” “Rest In Peace.” It was just the right note on which to begin our non-violent protest.

At first the crowed came in slowly and, at times hesitantly, but by 10 a.m. their was a small but steady stream of people gathering. An early sign of what the demeanor of the largest majority of this group would be like arrived in the form of a random guy with two large boxes of piping hot coffee and cups with which to share it. On a 36 degree morning, it was a more than welcome sign of things to come.

Many of us were wearing blue in honor of Elizabeth as suggested by the movement “Just Wear Blue.” The blue quickly became accented with pink as one of the group organizers came around with pink streamers for everyone to wear both in memory of Elizabeth and in support of breast cancer awareness.

The crowd continued to grow. Before long, there were hundreds of us there, but the gathering could not have been more peaceful. Signs began to appear before WBC ever appeared, but these were signs of love and support, not the signs of hate that would later arrive with WBC. “God Loves Elizabeth Edwards,” “Hero,” “Hope,” “Grace.”

I climbed to a higher advantage point on some scaffolding to get a picture of the crowd who had gathered and no soon than I had pulled out my camera WBC made their appearance to an odd combination of 'boos' and something that wasn't quite cheers but at the same time indicated the crowd's collective recognition of why we had gathered.

The signs WBC pulled out, as expected, were just awful. I will not repeat them here. You can find pictures of the all over the Internet (including my personal FB page and on The Christian Left on FB as well).

While there were a few less than respectful shouts coming from our side (labeled, correctly, The Line of Love), the largest majority chose to use less aggressive methods of couter-protest. As the WBCers would start to shout something out or sing, The Line of Love would counter with our own song. When the film crews would begin to interview the WBCers, the crowd would chant, “Don't film them!,” or “Don't believe the hate!,” which both sent out our message and seemed to actually make it difficult to film them without a good deal of noise.

Despite the horrible things their signs said, I will say this, I never saw a WBCer being hostile, aggressive or even mean to anyone (other than their horrible signs). As I hinted at earlier, their exchanges with the police were particularly well handled and professional. Regardless of their behavior, their presence and their signs were enough to make their hate clear.

As time went on, we were not alone. Several bikers drove through continuing their tradition of revving their engines to intentionally drown out anything the WBCers tried to say. Each time they did, the crowd would cheer them on adding to the overwhelming blanket of sound.

There were bicyclers, people in cars with blasting music, a large black truck sporting a slightly over-sized American flag, a volvo painted in a multiplicity of colors... so many people, from some many backgrounds showing up to counter the hate. It's enough to make you start believing in hope again, believing in the good intention of the people of our nation when there is so much talk of further marginalizing the least of these, believing in the possibility of God's peaceable Kin-dom here on Earth.

In the end as the WCBers turned to leave, the crowd started into an enthusiastic rendition of, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey-ey,goodbye.” Not the most loving thing that happened, but one would be pressed to say it wasn't heart felt.

As we headed back to the car, one of the ladies behind us started singing a Journey song, to which one of my travel-mates said, “There's always a Journey song for anytime.” I couldn't help but agree... “Don't stop, believin' – Hold on to the feelin'” Sure, a bit cheesy, but true.

Rev. Sandlin Blogs at The God Article

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"My Problem With The Prosperity Gospel," by Charles Toy, for The Christian Left

Are Joel Osteen and other purveyors of the 'prosperity gospel' false prophets? Those are pretty harsh words. I like to give folks the benefit of the doubt.  Are they a bit misled? Very likely so.

What the prosperity gospel implies is that wealthy people are blessed and there’s something wrong with poor people in God’s eyes. This is a lie from the pit of hell.

It is written in Mark 10:17-25 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Does this mean all rich people are going to hell? No. It is also written in Mark 10, verses 26 and 27: "That set the disciples back on their heels. ‘Then who has any chance at all?’ they asked. Jesus was blunt: ‘No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.'"

There were many "Saints" in the Bible who could be described as being wealthy. Joseph of Arimathea was one.

Does the Lord want to bless his people? Of course he does. Are blessings always material? Nope.  Are we on dangerous spiritual ground when we start thinking the disadvantaged are out of favor with God? Very much so.

Let us not be too hard on Brother Joel. The Disciples themselves were often misled in their own thinking. Jesus had to correct them frequently.

In January 2002, Bill O’Reilly said, "Jesus would have demanded that the homeless people shape themselves up or else, because, we all know the passage 'The Lord helps those who help themselves.'"

Actually Bill, we don’t know that passage. It isn’t in the Bible, anywhere.

And please, spare me "the poor will always be among you." Many people use this statement as an excuse for their own greed and self importance.  Jesus didn't mean for it to be taken that way, at all.  All of his other statements confirm this.

 

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"Do you want to be made well?" by Keith Goss, for The Christian Left

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids — blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a very long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” (John 5:2-7)

The poor man had been ill for 38 years. He obviously had some kind of paralysis. Hebrew tradition has it that every once in awhile an angel would descend from heaven and stir up the waters. The first person to make it into the waters before they stopped churning would be healed.

From time to time this man would have someone bring him on a mat to lie by the Sheep Gate, and maybe because he was leprous or possibly had a contagious disease, there was nobody who wanted to be around to help him be the first one in the water. Or maybe the temple authorities were just too busy with their religious duties to help him. Then Jesus came along, and well, he healed the man and the rest of the story is there for you to read.

When I think about this passage I’m immediately reminded of the Conservative Christian attitude towards universal heath care. Millions of people are finding that their insurance won’t cover certain illnesses. Millions more can’t afford insurance at all. Children and the elderly are hit the hardest, two particular stages of life when lack of adequate and quality health care can be a traumatic blow.

Yet Republicans and conservative Christians believe that we should not bother helping the poor man get into the pool before everyone else so that he can be healed. As a matter of fact, don’t help any of them in because they all don’t deserve it. “How did they end up there in the first place?” Like Pharaoh said of the Israeli  slaves, “They must be idle. Give them more work to do.”

Aside from important church state issues, I don’t understand how the Right can refer to our country as “Christian.” We spent trillions of dollars on two wars that were initiated on lies. After being bailed out, CEOs from our largest mega corporations continue to make 300 times more than their average employees. The rich still get richer, the middle class is disappearing, and the poor get poorer.

Yet television evangelists continue to ask people to send money in to their “ministries,” and while we have the greatest medical technology on the face of the earth the Right complains about who will foot the bill for universal health care.

When their Savior loved them so much he died on a cross for them, and while he was here on earth with no strings attached healed and fed hurting and hungry people, I am continually amazed that people of a “Christian” nation would so tenaciously cling to the Social Darwinist “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” philosophy. 

I sincerely don’t believe that the Christian Right’s fear of government is so deeply entrenched that they won’t even consider that same government providing health care for its citizens.  I think it boils down to fear and greed masquerading as a pseudo morality. Why else could the late Jerry Falwell confide to his congregation that he likes what Rush Limbaugh has to say, when Limbaugh is a man who constantly maligns the homeless as people who deserve what they get. Why else would a rich politician named Michele Bachmann call herself a Christian and have town hall meetings advocating the denial of universal health care to our poorest because she thinks it will lead to “socialism?” And how else could the “Reverend” Pat Robertson call natural disasters punishment for those who are sick, have lost family members, or have lost their homes?

These are the religious people of Jesus’ day here on earth who would not have helped the lame man get into the pool as the waters churned. Their civil self-help religion would tell them to pass the man by because chances are that he did something evil to deserve his condition, and besides, he can get a job and work so that he can afford insurance.

We have an opportunity through our government  to stop and help and not pass by the lame man; To help one another carry him in to the waters when the angel descends to stir them up; To get him back on his feet and praise the Lord, because god can do miracles through government too.

So if conservatives really believe they are followers of Christ, if we ourselves really believe that we are so, then we should all keep protesting and pushing for universal health care. I’m not talking about reform. Chances are that today’s insurance industry would have denied coverage to the lame man at the Sheep gate because of the preexisting condition of “invalidism,” and despite Obama’s reform, they would hire the best lawyers to locate loopholes for denial of coverage. We need to bypass the insurance industry altogether. It is rich enough for it’s employees to be well remunerated until they find other jobs to do.

Shout it from the house tops that free universal health care is a God given right for every man woman and child. That God is not so lacking in omniscience that he can’t use government to help us. If he used the state of the art highway system and government structure of the Roman occupation to advance the gospel and spread civilization in the first century, then today he can use our modern “secular” government to help us with our health care and provide us with coverage. After all, this is a big part of the good news, or gospel. The lame man at the Sheep gate shouldn’t have had to wait 38 years for someone to come along and help him. Neither should we.

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“Modern Joshua?” by Mark Baldwin, for The Christian Left

Joshua 6:1-2 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.”

While we read about the revelations of Wikileaks and the trials of Julian Assange, I am drawn to the parallels and the sad contrasts to the battle of Jericho.  In this metaphor, the walls of Jericho are the walls of the modern military security state.

Several spies were sent by Joshua into the city of Jericho and were protected by a prostitute and her family.  Bradley Manning and Julian Assange penetrated the elaborately expensive walls of information.  Contrary to popular belief, these walls are only rarely designed to protect "our sources and our assets."  Rather, they are designed to prevent the American people from knowing the truth of what is being done in their name.   It is not a secret to Yemenis that their villages are being surveilled and bombed by American drones.  The only protection afforded Manning and Assange is the constitution, worn threadbare by those whose gulosity for money and power is maintained through secrecy.

The release of the documents and the arrest of Manning was the first sound of the trumpet.  We now have conclusive proof that the war in Iraq was unjustifiable, and we can only grieve the loss of the courageous families in the armed services, and those families, none of whom have been spared, suffering in Iraq.
The release of documents about Afghanistan and the State Department and the arrest of Assange was the second sound of the trumpet, a clarion call to all people that we built the walls that imprison us, and we hold the key. The walls of secrecy that protect the purveyors of war can only be maintained by our consent.  Our founders had a vision that to maintain freedom one must have freedom of conscience.  That freedom is enshrined in the First Amendment.  The same law, which protects the rights of various Christian denominations to worship as they see fit, which protects Muslims, Jews, Taoists and atheists also protects those speaking truth to power.   All our founders understood that freedom of the press and freedom of religion were different facets of the same jewel.  The right of a free conscience implies a duty for Christians that we act according to our conscience.

The hacking of Visa, MasterCard, and Paypal was the third sound of the trumpet. We learned that those who gain wealth by means other than labor, the usurers and the moneychangers are beholden to the security state.  Fearing change in the laws that allow them to amass huge sums of wealth, they obsequiously comply with the government's freeze on Wikileak's accounts.

This third sound of the trumpet calls to all Christians.  The Wall Street Robber Barons are only as powerful as we allow them to be.  Stop feeding the usurers.  To stop feeding the usurers requires a level of personal and spiritual confrontation with oneself.  Am I willing to forgo convenience for the sake of Truth?  We all are smacked in the face with this question as soon as we are out shopping this holiday season.  Do I stop using my debit card?  It is so convenient.  I ask how inconvenienced are you to just get cash from your local credit union and use that?  Not only do you deprive the money-changers, your local vendors will gain the percentage that would go to visa for the transaction fee.  Do I start saving up for that big purchase rather than giving the usurers the wealth that I created?  These personal confrontations can little by little take away money from those who have benefited handsomely from the laws of our land, have bankrupted the nation, and now sneer at the misfortunate and tell them to tighten their belts.  What more motivation does a Christian need?

Foretelling the how or when the next trumpet will sound, further cracking the anti-democratic walls of the security state is not possible.  We do not yet know if Assange will become a modern Joshua, leading us to decimate the walls of secrecy hiding the evil done in our name.  We can, however, ask ourselves when the seventh trumpet sounds, will I lend my voice to the shout that will cause the walls to fall?  Do I have the strength to make the simple changes in my life to support my community and deprive the avaricious?  Dare I ask God for the courage to speak against war and injustice, and the secrecy in which they flourish?  Dare we Christians raise our voice to support the need for Truth?

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"Tired of Trying to Measure Up," by Charles Toy, for The Christian Left

“I’m sick and tired of trying to measure up to your expectations!” That’s exactly what I said to God 21 years ago.

I continued, “You’re God! You have all the power! You’re perfect! You live in perfection! I live in this s--t-hole! You have no idea what it’s like! No idea at all what it’s like to be a human being!”

I was having a MAJOR pity party. Major.

A voice spoke to my soul.  I didn’t hear it with my ears.  I heard it loud and clear in my spirit.

“Yes I do know what it’s like to be a human being. I became one. I know exactly what it’s like.”

I could not have come up with that at that particular time and in the frame of mind I was in.

It was all I needed to hear. God had delivered the perfect message to me when I needed Him most. My spirit was calmed immediately.

The next week-end I went to a Baptist men’s retreat for the week-end.  Unbeknownst to me, there was an author speaking at the retreat, Jeff VanVonderen.  He had just written a book called, “Tired of Trying to Measure Up.” Imagine that.  The very words I had said to God days before. I bought the book at the retreat and read the entire thing.

I still get mad at God sometimes, but he’s patient with me that way. After having a handful of experiences like the one I just described, it’s pretty hard for me to doubt Him.

Does he do these kinds of things in your life? I bet he does. Sometimes we just have to be willing to listen to his "still small voice" inside.

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"Does The Bible Mix Religion and Politics?" by Charles Toy, for The Christian Left

Both the Old and New Testaments stress the importance of government for protection and for maintaining order.

In the Bible, kings or other rulers were expected to rule with wisdom and justice. The Old Testament contains story after story of wicked, greedy and oppressive rulers who brought disaster on themselves and their people. Many of the Old Testament prophets, such as Elijah, Elisha and Daniel, delivered their messages of reform to Israel's kings.

Those of us who live under democracy elect our own "rulers." Our votes decide whether our government will be benevolent and just or harsh and oppressive. The Bible's advice and reproaches to the ancient rulers provide us wisdom to help us make wise choices in our own times.

A recurring theme in the Bible is that we should provide equal justice for all, not favoring the rich or powerful. Also, because all the peoples of the world are God's creation, we should not discriminate against foreigners:

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him. (NAS, Proverbs 14:31)

Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (TNIV, Exodus 23:6-9)

Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, So as to deprive the needy of justice, and rob the poor of My people of their rights, in order that widows may be their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans. Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your wealth? (NAS, Isaiah 10:1-3)


The Bible often speaks of charity as an individual-to-individual act of generosity. The law of Moses and the Hebrews, though, provided an institutional way of providing for the poor that did not depend on the good will of any individual. Not only was individual generosity encouraged, but, as a matter of law, part of everyone's produce or income was to be set aside to aid the poor:

"And you shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. (NAS, Exodus 23:10-11)

"When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied. (NAS, Deuteronomy 26:12)

Let's also recall the celebrated story of Joseph, son of Jacob:

Genesis 41:25-42 And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, "The dreams of Pharaoh are one. God hath shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years: the dreams are one. And the seven thin and illfavored cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine. This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: what God is about to do He showeth unto Pharaoh. Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine shall consume the land. And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following, for it shall be very grievous. And for that the dream was repeated unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. Now therefore let Pharaoh seek out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint overseers over the land, and take up a fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store for the land against the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land perish not through the famine." And the counsel was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, "Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?" And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, "Inasmuch as God hath shown thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art. Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled. Only in the throne will I be greater than thou." And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, "See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt." And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck.

In above story of Joseph, "The Government" set aside the bounties of 7 years of plenty to be "redistributed" during 7 years of famine.  Enough said?

One doesn't have to dig very deep to learn the spoken sentiments of Jesus related to these matters:

Matthew 25:31-46 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

The ancient Hebrews lived in extended families or clans and could generally take care of their own. In modern industrial societies, though, families are often fragmented and many have nowhere to turn except to "The Government," which is really We The People.  In Jeremiah 22, when the prophet delivers a scorching sermon about the treatment of workers, aliens and the poor, he specifically addresses both rulers (government) AND individuals.?

Jeremiah 22
Judgment Against Evil Kings

1 This is what the LORD says: "Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 2 'Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, you who sit on David's throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. 3 This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David's throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. 5 But if you do not obey these commands, declares the LORD, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.' " ?

13 "Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.

14 He says, 'I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.' So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red.

15 "Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.

16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD.

17 "But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion."


Everyone, both rich and poor, benefits when a government respects the rights of all and provides for the needy. Crime and drug abuse breed in areas of poverty and unemployment, where people may feel they have nothing to lose. Likewise, apathy and violence breed where people perceive injustice and feel excluded from the benefits of society. To the extent every individual feels empowered as a valuable, productive member of society, then society becomes healthier and more secure for everyone.

Amos 5: 11-12 You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them;  though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

Courts?  That would be "Government."



Sources:

http://www.twopaths.com/govern.htm
Copyright © by Cliff Leitch
The Christian Bible Reference Site
www.ChristianBibleReference.org
Used by permission.

http://www.biblegateway.com/
Scripture taken from
The HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica.
Used by permission of Zondervan.
All rights reserved.

Some Scripture quotations taken from
the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

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"Christ Is Not The Scam," by Mike George, for The Christian Left

This page [The Christian Left] is sooo important. The message has been skewed worldwide, IMHO. I think it's very unfortunate that nobody understands true Christianity.

Many folks base Christianity on what they see and hear from conservative preachers, which I feel is the antithesis of Christ’s teachings.

They also tend to try and ram it down people’s throats, making people feel uncomfortable and awkward.

The travesties of organized "Christianity" such as pedophile priests and money begging preachers make most folks think its all a scam; but Christ is not the scam. It’s the perpetrators doing the scamming in the name of Christ.

When I watch these conservative preachers on TV, they’re not preaching Jesus. They’re preaching the old testament, or talking about conservative politics, and they rarely mention Jesus ... What’s up with that???

It makes me wonder if many of these so called preachers are really luciferians deceiving folks on purpose. There’s a lot of speculation on that. I tend to believe that, because look at how the majority of Americans look upon Christianity. They have at best a skeptical view of it. Many despise it. Some so hate the false messages and molestations and money grubbing, they are avowed atheists.

False teachings are quite powerful and affective at tarnishing true Christianity. I’m not judging conservative Christians. They should believe whatever they want to believe, but I think they missed the point totally! Maybe on accident; maybe on purpose. Maybe they got hoodwinked or scammed into believing false teachings; or, maybe they got lured by the devil into believing false teachings.

Besides the obvious, that Christ is true salvation and everlasting life, He was also about helping the needy, especially the children, the poor, the sick, the hungry. He was about redemption. One could be absolved of sin, and start anew. He CARED ABOUT PEOPLE.

I do not see this from the conservative side at all. They care about MONEY. Jesus didn't care about money. He said to give it all away. He said that it is impossible for a rich man to enter heaven. Yet so many Christians chase after riches and wealth. Why??? I could see becoming rich to help those in need. That makes sense. Like Bill Gates, he’s giving his entire fortune away. I think he got the message, but most don’t.

Jesus' other main purpose was forgiveness; to not fight back; to be meek; to fight anger and hatred with love and enlightenment; to seek peace at all costs. He was a complete genius, and most everybody who dared to debate him lost because his wisdom superseded their seemingly rational rationales.

Let us not forget. Jesus was about LOVE. LOVE for God, and your brothers and sisters; and your enemies; and strangers; and those who could care less about you; and those of other faiths, and those of no faith. We are ALL brothers and sisters!

If everybody loved everybody the way Jesus loves everybody, there wouldn't be any more wars, or hunger, or hatred, or cruelty. We would be living something close to heaven on earth.

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Biblical Quotes Supporting the Belief that Jesus Is A Liberal -- By Becky Riley, for The Christian Left

Biblical Quotes Supporting the Belief that Jesus Is A Liberal -- By Becky Riley (member of The Christian Left)?

Peacemaking, not War Making: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. [Matthew 5:9] Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right... cheek, turn to him the other also. [Matthew 5:39] I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despite-fully use you, and persecute you; [Matthew 5:44]

The Death Penalty: Thou shalt not kill [Matthew 5:21]

Crime and Punishment: If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her. [John 8:7] Do not judge, lest you too be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. [Matthew 7:1 & 2.]

Justice: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. [Matthew 5:6] Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy [Matthew 5:7] But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [Matthew 6:15]

Corporate Greed and the Religion of Wealth: In the temple courts [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and other sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. [John 2:14 & 15.] Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. [Luke 12.15.] Truly, I say unto you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 19:23] You cannot serve both God and Money. [Matthew 6:24.]

Paying Taxes & Separation of Church & State: Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. [Matthew 22:21]

Community: Love your neighbor as yourself. .[Matthew 22:39] So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.[Matthew 7:12.] If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. [Matthew 19:21]

Equality & Social Programs: But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. [Luke 14:13 &14.]

Public Prayer & Displays of Faith: And when thou pray, thou shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou pray, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret… [Matthew 6:6 & 7]

Strict Enforcement of Religious Laws: If any of you has a son or a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? [Matthew 12:11] The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. [Mark 2:27.]

Individuality & Personal Spiritual Experience: Ye are the light of the world. [Matthew 5:14]

Follow the Truth.....wherever it leads you!?

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